Mar 17, 2023 - Politics

Sanders rejects government pay proposal as lawmakers ready for break

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an open letter Wednesday she won't support a pay increase plan for state government employees valued at $80 million.

What happened: In the communication, addressed to Secretary of Transformation and Shared Services Joseph Wood, she directed the department to "review and rework the existing classification and compensation structure of the state."

What they're saying: Government employees should be paid on "merit and accomplishment," not just years of service, Sanders said in the letter.

  • "It's long past time to reduce the size and scope of government, identify efficiencies, and responsibly phase out the income tax," the letter reads.

Flashback: Arkansas' new secretary of commerce, Hugh McDonald, told Axios in February there will likely be fewer state jobs in the Sanders administration.

Meanwhile, lawmakers at the state Capitol continued to push and pull various bills that stalled during the previous two weeks as the education reform package LEARNS took center stage.

Zoom in: Bills sent to Sanders' desk this week include:

  • SB307, a bill to create on state Capitol grounds a "monument commemorating unborn children aborted during the era of Roe v. Wade." Sanders said she intends to sign it.
  • HB1156, which would make transgender students use school restrooms corresponding with the sex listed on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. Sanders plans to sign the bill, per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
  • SB81, which would make it a crime for libraries to lend "harmful" or "obscene" materials to minors and make it a potential criminal offense.

The status of a few other bills the Legislature considered this week:

  • A measure that would prohibit school employees from addressing students by pronouns "inconsistent" with the student's sex assigned at birth unless provided written permission from parents, HB1468, passed the House Education Committee.
  • The House passed SB66, which would require pornography websites to confirm users in Arkansas are at least 18 years old before allowing access to their site, has been submitted for review by the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee.
  • SB366 would amend the law for violent felonies related to parole eligibility. The measure seeks to correct an issue where the Department of Corrections misinterpreted the law for seven years. The mistake resulted in 290 inmates losing parole eligibility despite what they were told at their conviction.
  • A bill filed March 6, HB1559, would prohibit public school districts from requiring an employee to take implicit bias training. Implicit, or unconscious, bias occurs automatically or unintentionally.

What's next: Lawmakers are recessed until March 27 for spring break.

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